What Elemental Personality Are You?

Dear Readers: 

I regularly hear from people asking how best to determine their elemental personality. Four years ago, I wrote a blog about just that and thought it might be a good time to share it again.

Stay safe and well,


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Dear Readers: At a recent workshop, a student approached me unsure of her primary elemental personality. She had taken several different “learn your element” tests and while they all narrowed the focus to three elements (Water, Earth, and Metal), she still wasn’t sure which one was her true primary elemental personality or even how they might manifest in her life. Most of the test results said she was a primary Water personality, but she just wasn’t sure.

I explained that while the tests are a great starting point, I believe that the best way to determine your primary elemental personality can be to observe yourself relative to what we know about each of the element personalities. To do this, I asked her to send me answers to the following five questions:

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Her Sister Won’t Discuss Family Death

Dear Vicki: Fran, a dear friend of the family, passed away almost three months ago. She was like an elderly aunt to me and my older sister Ruthie, and it has been hard for me to lose her. I’ve reached out to Ruthie to talk about it, but she apparently doesn’t want to. In hindsight, I can see that Ruthie never really wanted to talk about her feelings. We had a difficult relationship growing up and were very competitive as children. As we grew, I figured out that the easiest way to get along with Ruthie was to do things for her. I baked her favorite cookies, did some of her homework, and even knit her a scarf once. In short, I learned to hide it when I had strong opinions about something or really wanted to do something Ruthie didn’t. Now, I want to talk about Fran, but Ruthie will have none of it. I’m really frustrated about this because I think it’s time for me to be more of my real self around Ruthie. Why am I the one who has to change to get along? And how do I get Ruthie to talk to me about Fran? Signed: Disconnected Sister

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Dear Disconnected: I wish I could offer you a magic wand to make Ruthie more willing to talk about her feelings, but honestly, I’m not sure that’s possible. Based on your description of her, I suspect that Ruthie is a primary Wood personality. And given that the two of you were really competitive as children, I think you may be, too. But you also appear to have Earth as a very strong secondary part of your personality. Given this, the interactions between you and Ruthie become somewhat predictable and definitely understandable. Let me explain.

The Wood personality deeply values accomplishment and personal achievement. When two Wood people get together, if they aren’t careful, they can lapse into competitive behavior, possibly even bringing out the worst in each other. I suspect that any conflict between you and Ruthie was very difficult for your secondary Earth personality to take because family harmony is really important to the Earth personality. To avoid conflict and create harmony, it sounds like you stepped into that Earth part of your personality more and more around Ruthie. And one way to demonstrate that would be to do nice things for her.

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Twins Clash While Sheltering at Home

Dear Vicki: I have 14-year-old twins who are as different as night and day. Ted is a low-key guy who has always been happiest alone reading or watching movies. Tammy is the exact opposite. For her, everything is exciting and should be shared and celebrated at high volume. With the onset of sheltering in place, my husband is working from home and the children are doing virtual classes here, which means the four of us are spending almost every waking moment together in our small house. It’s not going well. I’ve tried to create fun and inventive family dinners, but they have degenerated to the point that Ted no longer talks because he can’t get a word in with Tammy going on and on about anything and everything. Tammy thinks Ted is a downer and Ted thinks Tammy lacks substance. My husband, an attorney, thinks they’re both spoiled brats that I clearly failed to raise well as a stay-at-home mom. I know this is a stressful time in the world, and I’m deeply grateful we all still have our health, but do you have any advice for a mom trying desperately to hold her family together during a pandemic? Signed, Battle Weary Mom

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Dear Battle Weary: Well, it sounds like your household is certainly not dull. But have faith. You are dealing with the logical extension of what I believe are four different elemental personalities confined 24/7 in close quarters while a deadly virus runs amok in the world. For most people, the pandemic has thrown everything on its head and created stressors that can bring out the best – and the worst – in all of us. But there are ways to make some sense of (and even improve on) what’s happening at your house.

First, we need to identify the elemental personalities interacting in your family. To begin with, I believe that as a stay at home mom desiring nothing more than peace in the family, you are a primary Earth personality. Your husband, an attorney who gladly delegated childrearing to you yet is quick to judge the results, is very likely a Metal personality. As for Ted, the fact that he is low-key and enjoys time alone, plus loves reading and watching movies, strongly suggests that he is a primary Water personality. And Tammy is clearly a primary Fire personality: she loves to be the center of attention, louder is usually better, and everything is worthy of celebration.

Knowing that Ted is a primary Water personality and Tammy is a primary Fire personality absolutely explains the way they interact and the fact that you consider them exact opposites. At an elemental personality level, they really are exact opposites. Let me explain.

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Fear and the Coronavirus Pandemic

Dear Readers: Lately, many of you have inquired if the Five Elements can help manage the fear we’re all feeling regarding the global coronavirus pandemic. We are afraid that someone close to us will get Covid-19, or that we will get it. We’re afraid that we will lose our jobs, or that we won’t be able to make ends meet if we do become unemployed. We fear the future with no reliable cure or treatment for the virus in sight. All of this is very understandable and yet, I do think there are ways we can approach our lives now that will help mitigate some of this fear. And of course, I think the Five Elements can help.

In the Five Elements model, the emotion of fear is usually associated with the Water element. Balanced Water energy is where hope, trust, optimism, and belief sit. Out of balance Water energy will usually lack these attributes and become fearful, pessimistic, and distrusting. This usually happens when there isn’t enough Water energy flowing. In a state of deficient Water, the usually optimistic Water question of “What if we do/create/imagine this exciting thing?” instead becomes the fearful question of “What if something bad happens?” When we start asking this question, we have opened the door to fear.

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Managing the Stress Created by Coronavirus

Dear Readers: Thank you so much for your positive response to last week’s blog offering insights into how each of the elemental personalities might handle the isolation and confinement associated with the coronavirus pandemic. I am deeply grateful for your positive comments.

I’ve also heard from many of you that the stress associated with the coronavirus pandemic has been hard to manage. Certainly, it is stressful to worry whether you and your loved ones will manage to stay healthy as the virus spreads around the globe. It is stressful to wonder if there will be adequate healthcare should someone you love need it. And it is stressful to ponder how best to keep your household running and adequately supplied when faced with layoffs, shortages, and shelter in place orders.

There is no doubt that the concerns associated with COVID-19 have thrust most of us into a state of prolonged stress. When added to whatever stress we were experiencing in our individual lives prior to the pandemic, we are likely experiencing significant imbalance in our energies. But we have choices in how we address this stress, and the Five Elements model offers us informed options.

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